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John Ashcroft, the attorney General of the US, is expected to announce on Thursday dozens of lawsuits against alleged spammers following a low key campaign against the practise across the US. The arrests have been made over the last few weeks as part of a coordinated effort to crack down on spamming, dubbed Operation Slam Spam.

The New York Times reports that the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) has given significant funds to the campaign. The DMA is wants to promote legal email marketing, and is clearly concerned that negative feeling about spammers will affect its own image.

Yesterday, anti-virus company Sophos revealed that the US accounted for nearly half of all spam sent, and said that the CAN Spam act was not working.

The CAN Spam act was widely criticised when it was passed, and in fact had the backing of many high profile spammers including Alan Ralsky. He said that the act "made my day". Anti-spam organisation Spamhaus says that the bill effectively legalised spam, but acknowledges that it does attempt to deal with the issue of blocking spam. The bill also makes it illegal to send mail out using false headers.

It seems not to have much of an effect on the overall volume of spam, so far: Symantec says that when the act was passed in December last year, 58 per cent of all mail sent was junk. That figure now stands at 65 per cent.

However, in May this year, the FBI said it was going on the offensive in the battle against the spammers, and was developing cases on 50 of the worst offenders.

Operation Slam Spam worked with law enforcement agencies and non-commercial antispam organisations to build up a database of spammers. The investigators also played decoy online - buying products advertised in spam so they could track the source of the messages.

According to the NYT the charges will include credit card fraud and computer crime. ®

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